Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > British Museum Sword Mystery Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2  Next 
Author Message
Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 6:38 am    Post subject: British Museum Sword Mystery         Reply with quote

Hello folks,

Had an interesting article about a supposed thirteenth century sword on display in the British Museum linked to me by a friend. Supposedly they're having trouble at the museum deciphering the significance (and literal meaning) of the inscription on the blade. They claim that it is a rather irregular blade as well, but for those of us in the know I think the double fuller won't be quite the oddity that they're making it out to be... Though it is extremely well-preserved and rather different!

Cheers!

-Gregory

A 13th-Century Sword Is Giving Historians a Headache

View user's profile Send private message
Shahril Dzulkifli




Location: Malaysia
Joined: 13 Dec 2007
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 1,265

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 7:21 am    Post subject: British Museum Sword Mystery         Reply with quote

An English sword with a possible German blade - a weapon that puzzles historians and museum curators alike due to its untranslatable inscription.
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
View user's profile Send private message
Lin Robinson




Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 1,218

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 9:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe it was found in the Witham River. Hanwei makes a replica of it and I have one. The article asks the same questions that have been asked about the sword since its discovery and is quite correct in saying that nobody knows what the inscription means. IMHO it is a Bible verse, at least the first letters of the words in a Bible verse. But, not knowing the language, although I would bet it is in Latin, it is highly unlikely that it will ever be translated unless someone wants to devote untold man hours searching the Bible for it. Even then it will be a guess as to what it means.
Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982


Last edited by Lin Robinson on Thu 06 Aug, 2015 4:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
View user's profile Send private message
Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Reading list: 13 books

Posts: 981

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 9:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lin Robinson wrote:
I believe it was found in the Witham River. Hanwei makes a replica of it and I have one.

The Hanwei River Witham Sword bears only the most superficial resemblance to the original, though. Albion's "The Vigil" is far more closely based on this artifact.

It's actually a very famous sword, all told, featured in many publications over the years, and understandably so - it's gorgeous! One of my personal all time favorite medieval swords.

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
View user's profile Send private message
Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
Joined: 17 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 5,686

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah, my favorite sword from the medieval period. I've drooled over pictures of this sword since I was a child. Oakeshott classified it as a Type X in his typology, but it's really a "tweener" as it bears features of other types. The museum classifies it as 13th century and Oakeshott put it in the 11th, but I think the 12th century is a more likely origin for this one. My ultimate grail sword would be a custom version bu Peter Johnsson, as Peter and Eric McHugh are the only two smiths to ever do a hands on examination of the sword. A wonderful piece for sure.
"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
View user's profile Send private message
Lin Robinson




Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 1,218

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 4:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:
Lin Robinson wrote:
I believe it was found in the Witham River. Hanwei makes a replica of it and I have one.

The Hanwei River Witham Sword bears only the most superficial resemblance to the original, though. Albion's "The Vigil" is far more closely based on this artifact.

It's actually a very famous sword, all told, featured in many publications over the years, and understandably so - it's gorgeous! One of my personal all time favorite medieval swords.


Yes it is. I didn't say the Hanwei version is a close replica, just a replica. It is far too heavy, the inscription is not accurate, nor is the blade configuration. Even so, I like the one I have because it is quite sturdy and quite sharp. It also rusts rather easily, that is the cross and pommel do.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
View user's profile Send private message
J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,610

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 4:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Definitely one of the highlights of the museum, and arguably the most famous medieval sword. A couple of years ago I asked Jeff Helmes to do a version with bronze inlay, as opposed to gold on the original. He was keen to do it, but unfortunately his quote was out my range. Maybe some day. In the mean time I bought the Vigil...which is perfectly excellent as a sword, just no inlay, which is such a striking aspect of the original.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 5:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I thought I recognized this sword, but the article made it seem like some sort of modern mystery. Interesting to hear that it's taken so long to reckon the nature of the inscription... Cheers!

-Gregory
View user's profile Send private message
J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,610

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 5:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gregory J. Liebau wrote:
I thought I recognized this sword, but the article made it seem like some sort of modern mystery. Interesting to hear that it's taken so long to reckon the nature of the inscription... Cheers!

-Gregory


It's a nice article, thanks for passing it on. The mysteries of inlay are genuine but not new. Seems like it's in the news now because it's currently on loan to the 800 year Magna Carta display. Bloggers and Journalists are in the business of making things sound interesting to the general public. Much easier to do that with a neat sword than some old documents. Good on 'em.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
Joined: 17 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 5,686

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 6:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric McHugh with the sword in hand. Envy, envy, envy..................

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 7:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick,

What makes you think 12th century?

To my knowledge, the great majority of 12th century swords that had disk pommels would have had a Type G pommel, with perhaps a few Type H and I pommels appearing right near the close of the century. While that doesn’t rule out this sword, it certainly makes it less likely. Likewise, double fullers are, to my knowledge, basically non-existent on 12th century swords, and if there are examples, they belong to swords from right around 1200 AD. However, I think it’s the cross, along with the pommel and double fullers, which really strengthens a later dating. I don’t know of any 12th century swords having a cross that is a flared cylinder like this one. This type of cross screams 13th/14th century and when paired with the pommel and double fuller makes a 13th century dating far more plausible to me.
View user's profile Send private message
Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
Joined: 17 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 5,686

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 7:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Patrick,

What makes you think 12th century?

To my knowledge, the great majority of 12th century swords that had disk pommels would have had a Type G pommel, with perhaps a few Type H and I pommels appearing right near the close of the century. While that doesn’t rule out this sword, it certainly makes it less likely. Likewise, double fullers are, to my knowledge, basically non-existent on 12th century swords, and if there are examples, they belong to swords from right around 1200 AD. However, I think it’s the cross, along with the pommel and double fullers, which really strengthens a later dating. I don’t know of any 12th century swords having a cross that is a flared cylinder like this one. This type of cross screams 13th/14th century and when paired with the pommel and double fuller makes a 13th century dating far more plausible to me.


The problem with making absolute judgements is there are always exceptions. This sword seems to be one of them and is something of a mystery.

Breaking the sword down into it's components: The inlay on both sides of the blade (why one side is only shown I have no idea) bears a striking resemblance to a Viking grave-found sword in Helsinki, a sword that is firmly dated circa 1100 AD. The blade's double fullers mean nothing in and of themselves as multi-fullered blades date to the celtic iron age. Disk pommels started to appear during the Viking age, from the 10th century onward. Examples of Type I pommels, such as this one, have been found on swords discovered in Finland and dated to the late Viking Age. The Type 2 Guard such as this, first starts to appear in the mid-12th century as evidenced by the artwork and statuary of the period. (Never seen a sword with one? Well, there's one right here in this thread.) Wink It first begins with a rather square cross section, then transitioning to a round cross section and finally, the ones with beveled edges or octagonal cross sections seem to be a thirteenth century fashion. All of this leads me to believe this sword has an earlier creation date than the circa 1340 assigned to it by the Museum. One of the many reasons why this sword is so interesting is it's uniqueness. It seems to combine many features we associate with both earlier and later types.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Lewis





Joined: 19 Apr 2014

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 359

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 8:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
double fullers are, to my knowledge, basically non-existent on 12th century swords, and if there are examples, they belong to swords from right around 1200 AD.

Early double-fullered blades definitely exist, here's an example from Norway paired with a Petersen type T pommel, which I think would probably put in the early 11th century at the latest... In rough shape now, but would have been a very impressive piece in it's day I think.



View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
Joined: 17 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 5,686

PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 8:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark, I've never seen that one. Excellent find!
"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2015 11:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Does anyone have examples of swords that are unambiguously dated to the 12th century (sorry Patrick, I’m not counting this sword for this purpose) with this style of cross? Or, for that matter, images in art and statues as you mentioned? I’ve spent a lot of time looking at 12th century manuscript images and I do not recall swords with crosses of this sort; nevertheless, they may well exist.

For that matter, what does Alfred Geibig have to say about crosses in his Entwicklung des Schwertes im Mittelalter? Are there examples of swords from the 12th century with this type of cross in his book?

In the article C.L. Miller wrote about Geibig’s typology there is a photo of a sword that I believe was the inspiration for Albion’s Ritter. To my knowledge, it’s quite firmly dated to the 13th century. I notice that the cross is very similar to the Witham sword. Further, the inlay on this sword looks, admittedly superficially, fairly similar in style to the Witham sword. To me, this gives better support to a 13th century date.

See the image here:
http://www.myArmoury.com/view.html?features/pic_geibig24.jpg
View user's profile Send private message
Mark Lewis





Joined: 19 Apr 2014

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 359

PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2015 4:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
In the article C.L. Miller wrote about Geibig’s typology there is a photo of a sword that I believe was the inspiration for Albion’s Ritter. To my knowledge, it’s quite firmly dated to the 13th century.

That's Xa.13, held in the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin under inventory number W880. Oakeshott dates that one to 1100, but the museum puts it much later of course... so no clear answer there.

There is this one in Glasgow, Oakeshott's XI.7, which he again claims is from around 1100... but a 12th century date is most likely for this blade type, I think?


I think this next one is from Geibig, a type XI very similar to W880. I don't have access to his catalogue myself, but maybe someone does and can look this one up specifically...
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,610

PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2015 5:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
Ah, my favorite sword from the medieval period. I've drooled over pictures of this sword since I was a child. Oakeshott classified it as a Type X in his typology, but it's really a "tweener" as it bears features of other types. The museum classifies it as 13th century and Oakeshott put it in the 11th, but I think the 12th century is a more likely origin for this one. My ultimate grail sword would be a custom version bu Peter Johnsson, as Peter and Eric McHugh are the only two smiths to ever do a hands on examination of the sword. A wonderful piece for sure.


I would have thought 12th century as well Patrick, but in this thread:

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=259...;start=100

Peter Johnson cited some evidence that the Witham Sword could be 13th century South German, based on some details of the lettering style.

The River Witham sword also has a lot of stylistic similarities to the Whittle Sea Mere Sword, which has a longer Xa blade but very similar type I pommel, type 2 cross, and inlay. The museum also dates this one to 13th century:

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O67956/sword-unknown/

They could be brothers. I've always liked that sword as well. In fact right now A&A is building a sword loosely inspired by this one, but without inlay and a slightly different pommel. Hopefully that will be done soon.

- JD
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
Joined: 17 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 5,686

PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2015 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very nice choice on that last one J.D. The two are very similar. One wonders if they may have been made in the same shop?
View user's profile Send private message
J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
Joined: 25 Dec 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,610

PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2015 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
Very nice choice on that last one J.D. The two are very similar. One wonders if they may have been made in the same shop?


It's certainly tempting to think so isn't it? Oakeshott put pictures of them side by side in SAC. He didn't comment on the similarity but I always thought he was hinting at something.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2015 8:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Lewis wrote:

That's Xa.13, held in the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin under inventory number W880. Oakeshott dates that one to 1100, but the museum puts it much later of course... so no clear answer there.


The problem I have with using Mr. Oakeshott as an authority for dating swords, especially in Records, is that he is biased. More specifically, I’ve noticed that he has a tendency to want to push for the earliest possible date for a sword. On the one hand, this tendency is fairly sympathetic—it’s almost as though Ewart wanted to show just how much sophistication and variety exists in earlier medieval swords as though to say “Medieval people were more advanced that we modern people realized”. I suspect many people who study the Middle Ages and who lament the still prevalent stereotypes about the period would find Mr. Oakeshott’s tendency endearing.

However, just because wanting swords to be as early as possible is sympathetic does not mean that it’s factually accurate. Because it’s fairly clear that Oakeshott wanted to date swords as early as possible, we also know that this tendency will make his dating less reliable simply because he’ll often push for an early date on the basis of one feature alone on the sword. In particular, I think Mr. Oakeshott tends to downplay the role of hilt furnishings as giving clues to a sword’s age. This is pertinent to the Deutsches Historisches sword W880.

Having spent a substantial amount of time looking at 12th century miniatures, and having some knowledge of antique swords that can be dated to the 12th century with reasonable certainty, I see little reason to accept Oakeshott’s dating of 1100 A.D. for the sword. I know of no 12th century miniatures that show swords with Type D pommels, and I cannot recall any that show Type C either. However, there are several miniatures from the 13th century that clearly show pommels of this type. Therefore, a 13th century dating seems much more plausible to me.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > British Museum Sword Mystery
Page 1 of 2 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum